John Cameron's personal blog

Serious discussion about your financial position now - and in the future.

WHAT CAN A FINANCIAL PLANNER DO FOR ME?

One of my favourite pastimes each Saturday is reading the weekly column by Nikki Gemmell, in The Weekend Australian magazine. She writes about life and the lives of herself, her family and people she has known, and gently draws valuable lessons from them.

Last Saturday, she wrote about 2 people who had been high profile in their day, earning big money. However, their later years were nothing like their early years. The money ran out, their health deteriorated and they spent their last days in relative poverty.

That’s a story that we are likely to hear more of, as the population ages, but it is a problem that Financial Planners are well positioned to help you avoid.

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TRAPS TO AVOID IN RETIREMENT - LEAVING IT TOO LATE TO ACHIEVE YOUR GOALS

Most of us had retirement dreams, and couldn’t wait to finish work. So once retired, why haven’t we started ticking items off the bucket list? There’s no time like now for living your dreams.

When Tony and Chris retired they had grand plans involving a campervan, Kakadu and a rescue-dog. Their great Australian road-trip was happening the very next year, after they, “just got few things out of the way”.

Things like their daughter’s November wedding, then the kitchen reno in January. Kakadu wasn’t going anywhere; it would wait until July – after Chris’s knee reconstruction.

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WHAT EXACTLY IS A BALANCED FUND??

When comparing different superannuation funds, how confident can you be that you are comparing “like with like”?

The short answer is “not at all”.

Generally when comparing funds, the media like to bunch all those with the same label (such as “balanced”) together, and then compare the performances. Funds are classified as “balanced”, “growth”, “conservative”, etc., depending on the split between “growth assets” and “defensive assets” within each fund. 

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TRAPS TO AVOID IN RETIREMENT - INVESTING TOO CONSERVATIVELY

There’s a common view that as you approach retirement you should tilt your investment portfolio towards more conservative investments. This means favouring things like term deposits, annuities and cash management trusts while reducing exposure to more volatile assets such as shares and property. The thinking is that preservation of capital is key, as without an earned income it is hard to recover from any downturns in the share or property markets. 

In the days of high interest rates this might have been a good strategy, but when interest rates are low and life expectancies long, being too conservative with investment can see the money running out way too soon.

Peter plans to retire on his upcoming 63rd birthday. He has $600,000 in super and wants this to provide him with an income of $50,000 per year. If his net return is 3% pa, Peter’s nest egg will last for just over 15 years . The problem is there’s a good chance Peter will live into his late 80s or even 90s. To give his savings a chance of lasting until he is 90 (27 years), Peter will need to target a net return of 7% pa.

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TRAPS TO AVOID IN RETIREMENT - GOING TOO HARD TOO FAST

Retirement: you’ve made it! And one of the rewards for all your hard work is that you can now access your superannuation. Suddenly a world of opportunities opens up – a Caribbean cruise, major home renovations or maybe helping your kids reduce some of their debt.

Of course you deserve to celebrate your retirement, but bear in mind that your super might need to support you for the next 30 years or more. Eat too far into your nest egg in the early days and you significantly reduce the time that your super will last. This is particularly the case in a low interest rate environment.

Take Ron and Val. They retire with a combined super balance of $800,000. At an interest rate of 4% pa this nest egg will fund annual living expenses of $60,000 for 19.4 years[1]. If they spend $100,000 on travel and home renovations and give a further $100,000 to their children, the reduced nest egg will now only last 13 years.

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